Literary Notes: Aslam Farrukhi and the art of writing elegant Urdu prosePakistan
It was January 2010. The venue was Punjab University Oriental College, Lahore. The occasion was Muhammad Hussain Azad’s 100th death anniversary. Prof Dr Tehseen Firaqi, the then head of Urdu department, had aptly requested Prof Dr Aslam Farrukhi to present the keynote address on the opening day as Dr Farrukhi is the scholar who has carried out research work on Azad and is the connoisseur of beautiful Urdu prose that Azad has penned.
This writer had an opportunity to be among the audience that was mesmerised by Dr Farrukhi’s elegant and impeccable prose highlighting Azad’s life and works. Renowned scholars and authors from India and Pakistan were engrossed in his address. It was so quiet that one could hear a pin drop, literally. This writer still remembers that when a young student tried to whisper to someone sitting next to him, Nasir Zaidi, the well-known Urdu poet who happened to be sitting in the next row, gave the student a stern look and whispered in a firm tone: “Listen. Listen, for you won’t be able to have many opportunities like this and you would be proud to tell that you saw Dr Farrukhi and heard him give a speech.” It was a tribute from a contemporary well-versed with literary matters.
It is quite heartening to note that Prof Dr Aslam Farrukhi, despite being 92, is still engaged in intellectual activities and is writing Urdu prose as elegant as it gets these days. At least, now when nobody cares about intricacies of language, Dr Farrukhi’s prose gives one some hope that there are still a few writers who can write idiomatic and chaste yet beautiful Urdu prose, otherwise, it seems, that some Urdu newspaper editors and columnists are in a race to win ‘the worst-Urdu-prose-of-the-year award’ (there can be dozens of claimants, believe me!).
Dr Farrukhi’s prose reminds the readers of some of the most remarkable practitioners of the delicate art of writing elegant Urdu prose: Mir Amman, Mirza Ghalib, Muhammad Hussain Azad, Khwaja Hasan Nizami, Mukhtar Masood, Jameel Jalibi and Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi. Students who want to learn the secrets of writing good Urdu prose (and their teachers and some senior writers as well, I am afraid to say) must profoundly study these prose writers of Urdu and see how the tradition has come to Dr Farrukhi.
This nonagenarian scholar’s new book Raunaq-i-bazm-i-jahan, a collection of pen sketches, serves as a reminder as well that he is one of Urdu’s best sketch writers, too. The book, published by Scheherzade, Karachi, has 10 pen sketches, written in his usual colloquial, chaste and flowing prose. Most of the personalities whose sketches are included in the book seem to come alive with Dr Farrukhi’s master strokes. Some of the personalities and the details given in the sketches are in fact commentary on our past and the changing social values. Because of the idiomatic expressions, proverbs, colloquial expressions and some rare vocabulary, no lexicographer of Urdu can afford to ignore Aslam Farrukhi’s sketches. But for a common reader too they make a cherished reading. The other collections of Aslam Farrukhi’s sketches are Guldasta-i-ahbaab, Aangan mein sitaare, Laal sabz kabootron ki chhatri, Mausam-i-bahar jaise log and Saat aasmaan. These books have preserved a seat for him in Urdu sketch-writers’ hall of fame along with Muhammad Hussain Azad, Farhatullah Baig, Moulvi Abdul Haq, Rasheed Ahmed Siddiqi, Shahid Ahmed Dehlvi, Mumtaz Mufti, Muhammad Tufail and others.
Aslam Farrukhi is a poet, research scholar, educationist, critic, sketch-writer, dramatist and broadcaster. He has penned a number of books for children as well. Born in Lucknow on Oct 23, 1923, into a family known for its literary traditions, Aslam Farrukhi sort of inherited love of literature, as his paternal grandfather, his father and even his sisters used to compose poetry. His ancestral hometown was Fatehgarh, Farrukhabad district, UP.
In September 1947, Aslam Farrukhi migrated to Pakistan and completed his education from Urdu College (now Federal Urdu University) and University of Karachi. Initially he worked for Radio Pakistan’s Karachi station as script writer for about six years. Later, having done his MA and PhD in Urdu, Farrukhi Sahib taught Urdu at S.M. College and Central Government College. Later, he joined Karachi University’s Urdu department where he ultimately rose to the position of professor and head of department. He also worked as registrar and director of the Bureau of Compilation and Translation at Karachi University. After retirement, Farrukhi Sahib also served Anjuman Taraqqi-i-Urdu as adviser and Federal Urdu University as honorary chief administrator as well as director of publications.
Dr Aslam Farrukhi’s other books include Muhammad Hussian Azad (in two volumes), Tazkira Gulshan-i-hamesha bahar (annotation and editing), Urdu ki pehli kitab (edited version of textbooks written by Azad), Fareed-o-fard-i-Fareed, Dabistaan-i-Nizam and Farmaya Sultan Ji ne.
Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2015
On a mobile phone? Get the Dawn Mobile App: Apple Store | Google Play